Sindoor And mangalsutra- two things synonymous with a married Hindu woman in our society are subjected to a lot of hatred these days. I have come across numerous arguments recently in which sindoor and mangalsutra were reduced to nothing but carriers of patriarchal practices.
It is ironic that most of such arguments are shared by the very people who endorse hijab and burkha as empowering garments for women. Why? What is it that mangalsutra gets wrong, but hijab doesn’t? Or it is that these two are not that different from each other and it is us who have conveniently put the two things in the opposite corners of our empowerment spectrum? Or should we be talking about something else altogether here- a woman’s right to choose?
I grew up in a small town of India where it was common for women to cover their heads, wear a mangalsutra and adorn their heads with sindoor on a daily basis. Decades have passed, but from the part of India that I belong to, a majority of women still stick to traditional practices that are labelled outdated today.
If only you could meet the women I am talking about, you’d know that there is nothing orthodox about the lives that they live.
Women manage groceries and bakeries, they work at banks and railway station, they drive scooters and cars, they go for evening walks and attend yoga classes daily. Almost all of these financially independent women, who know the value of self-care, take numerous decisions on a daily basis for themselves and their families, go about their daily lives wearing sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles and much more.
Some of them are the first generation of women in their families to work, to step out of their houses, to drive cars or to even run businesses. Don’t their achievements matter? Should we not consider them as empowered women simply because they choose to follow certain practices that do not sit well with so called modern people?
This is not about being Hindu or Muslim, or the practices that are common to these religions. In fact, people who are inserting religion in from any angle here are doing a disservice to the cause of feminism.
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